If Joe Cryan decides he wants to take out Nick Scutari – politically, not literally – he’ll do it through redistricting. Cryan is a politically savvy, experienced political cartographer who is well-positioned to advocate for a new map, if he wants to.
Cryan could potentially look for a new 20th district that starts in his hometown, Union, and heads southwest to include Kenilworth, Cranford, Winfield, Rahway, Clark, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Garwood and Plainfield. That would put Assemblymen Jerry Green (Plainfield) and James Kennedy (Rahway) in his district.
Then he can push for a redrawn 22nd district for Scutari that would start in his hometown, Linden, and add four new towns: Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Roselle Park. This gives Scutari a district that is 82% new territory, and more likely to pick a black or Hispanic Senator than keep him around. The incumbent Assembly members in that district would be Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth) and Jamal Holley (D-Roselle).
Based on 2016 population estimates, each legislative district will increase in size by about 4,000 people, more or less. The two possible districts outlined above are nearly identical in size.
The two Democratic State Senators from Union County are rivals for the leadership of the party organization in Union County, especially as County Chairman/Assemblyman Jerry Green approaches retirement age. Cryan controls the Union County Sheriff’s Department and Scutari has recently seen a close ally become the new County Manager.
But this is a fair fight, at least right now. Both sides have considerable pockets of strength. While Cryan, a former Democratic State Chairman, is the better political tactician, Scutari could just as easily prevail in redistricting. He could push for a map that puts Cryan in a Republican district against Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean.
Don’t read too much into this. Drawing legislative districts for 2021 is largely an explorative exercise.
*This is the first in a series of posts about how the prospect of legislative redistricting after the 2020 census will loom large in the minds of New Jersey political leaders.